Seen

This is a poem about body image, body hatred, and exploring sexuality with a new lover while wrestling with those .. and losing.

 

Seen

 

 

 

I asked for the lights out.

 

Hidden beneath piles of your blankets,

 

I wasn’t strong enough to let you undress me.

 

When your hand accidentally pushed the fabric aside

 

Exposing my stomach to the dark of your room,

 

I snapped out of the moment with you;

 

That precious, much anticipated moment,

 

To clutch the blankets tight around my waist

 

In apology.

 

 

 

When you looked down the length of me,

 

I couldn’t look at your face.

 

I didn’t want to see you struggle to be okay with my body.

 

In that moment,

 

I regretted every French fry that has ever touched my lips.

 

My eyes shut tight, as if I could blank out your view,

 

I missed the way you gazed at me,

 

Imagining instead a look of disgust –

 

Though I have never seen anything less than love on your face.

 

 

 

I lost myself to the moment only once.

 

Your eyes latched onto mine,

 

Your hands exploring every curve of me.

 

I was lost in your gaze

 

And for a few minutes I could feel you.

 

I could feel your desire for me,

 

And I was too lost in your eyes

 

To deny it.

 

 

 

 

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The Changing Leaves – Writing Divorce

Nearly two years ago, my partner of 12 years and I walked away from our partnership, in two different directions in life.  There was a lot of hurt that had been building for years. Even when two people agree to separate, even when both of you want to set out in life looking for something new, it hurts.  More comes unraveled than you even realize.  I wrote this last year, marking a year since the decision to divorce.  I was trying to capture how our relationship had weathered so much, but didn’t make it out unharmed.  I was trying to find a poetic way to say that only through divorcing was I able to finally really fully feel love from him, this was not his fault.  I wanted to say, that despite years of pain, there were moments where we shared absolute beauty.  For us, these moments so often occurred in nature.  Now, almost 2 years later, it feels appropriate to finally share this piece.

 

We fell with the last leaf of autumn.

A quiet beauty of colors against blue sky,

Turned brittle brown and left forgotten

As the fiery oranges and golden hues

faded into long winter days.

Through four seasons

we scraped our brokenness,

Gathered the trampled mulch,

And waited for new growth

We survived a harsh winter

Spring storms

Sweltering heat

To gather again the debris

To learn the depth of rocky soil

The richness of what has decayed

Our branches reached out more than once

An effort to touch the missing leaves

But fallen leaves die their quiet death

And we cannot undo years of sorrow

For moments of sunlight over an Ozark hill

When the first leaf begins to turn

Lost & Found

28 days ago I packed up everything I own, put it into storage, and drove east into a new life. I’ve landed but somehow haven’t arrived. Today I sit on a screened patio looking out over a pool with palm trees in the landscape as rain beats down. Isaac making his presence known here in north central Florida. Even in this setting, I cannot write.

I am working with an idea for a poem. The kind of idea that could be as good as ‘Hellbender’ if I could just get some words on the page. I write a verse then delete it. It’s like I left my creativity in the Ozarks.

This happens occasionally to writers. Sudden moments when we cannot seem to write. I am remembering a writing exercise around this, which is to just write about what is happening. To begin and just let the pen (or keystrokes) continue into the absence of words.

collecting bones, leaning into the dusty decay of death
My sacrifice carved on my heart……

I want to write this poem. I cannot seem to get the words to come I am thinking in images which is probably good for the long haul process of THIS piece, if I can stick with it long enough to pen some words to the page. I now just list words, feelings, descriptions of what I am seeing. I also know part of the problem is writing about an unfolding rather than a particular place in time or theme.  ‘Hellbender’ had that same quality of writing about an unfolding.  I wove that poem like a spell and perhaps that is the problem here.  The magic of it has escaped me in my desire to have the finished product rather than see where the poem takes me.

Writing is full of twists and turns.  We weave together words for healing, for love, for truth-telling, for romance.  What we weave sometimes ensnare us, for good or ill, and takes us somewhere new and amazing.   In March a poem about the Ozarks brought me to Florida.  Now I sit here, wanting the unfolding because I am desperate to know what is next.

I Write

The absence of updating here has not meant the absence of writing.  In fact, I’ve been writing more than ever.  I’ve been writing and musing on heart-break, on breaking open, on letting go, and on moving on.  I’ve been writing cover letters, resumes, and articles.  I’ve been writing services, trance meditations, and my own journaling.  I’ve been writing poetry here and there.  The latest of which, I bring to you:

I write
Too late at night
When I should be sleeping.
I take my pen to page,
Scribble then begin
To see form
Where words connect
Life and spirit
And reality bends
At my will.

I write
Early in the morning
When I should be showering.
I sit at my keyboard
Clicking out the rhythm
Of morning song
Drifting through my window,
Carried by robins
And the scent of lilac.

I write
Mid-afternoon, after lunch,
When I should be working.
I fade into the white noise
Scratching out the scenes before me,
Like carvings on cave walls.
For others to interpret
And read meaning into
Everyday life.

I write
To meet myself.
Rising up above
What has happened to me.
I author my life,
Give sacrament to it,
And lay it on the altar.
This writing,
This life,
This holy work
It has become.

Keep the Original

Today I spent a good deal of time thinking about poetry.  What makes a poem hit you where you live?  How do we transform the simple everyday objects of our lives into exquisite works of art?

In my own process, the answer is simple.  Edit.

With every revision the poet has an opportunity to take something personally meaningful and turn the phrases to touch more hearts.  I started thinking about what I know of this process.  I survived for years without editing.  Resistant to striking anything, convinced I would lose some of the essence if I changed a single word.  Told early in life I was a “natural writer,”  it never occurred to me that discipline would only deepen the flavor natural talent brings to my work.  Much of my life I have been able to write anything; poems, short stories, lengthy essays, on short notice.  I skipped the “rough draft” process, except in classes where I was required to turn in a copy.  I thought my ability to write without revisions, still garnering A’s and compliments, put me ahead of the game.

When I met Mendy Knott,I received the authentic compliment, mixed with room to grow, I have come to expect from her.  Mendy loves to encourage writers, but she won’t bullshit you.  So after a reading one night when she told me I was a strong writer and I shot back with my questioning “really?” she closed in on what teachers and peers never had.  She mentioned editing.  I don’t recall the exact conversation but I remember walking away still feeling good about my work but open to this idea of editing.  I did not, however, take her advice for a few more years.

I had dubbed myself a “napkin poet.”  I wrote when the muse suddenly appeared, often driving down I-540 at upwards of 70mph or after a little too much coffee in the middle of the night.  Grabbing at whatever I happened to have on hand, I wrote most of my poetry on napkins, sometimes on my skin, and once in crayon on my dashboard.  I liked being a napkin poet.

It has only been the last 12-18 months I’ve been editing my work.  I thought about this change and the way my writing has strengthened, not just from editing but also the daily discipline of writing.  Much of my writing practice has developed around suggestions solicited from Mendy Knott, who I’ve come to think of as my writing mentor.  A few other tips and overheard statements from other writers have seeped in to my consciousness as well.  A collection of one liners, instructions, and reminders about what it means to show up to this work and to claim the space of being a writer.

With all this in mind, the following poem emerged.  While not all of these treasured tips can be attributed to Mendy, many of them can.  She has been the single most influence on me claiming my space as a writer, professionalizing it little by little, making friends with discipline, meeting my muse halfway, and being able to hear critiques of my work with eagerness.  I’ve titled this piece “Keep the Original.”  This taken from her repeated advice about revisions, always keep a copy of the original in case you cut a little too much.  This wisdom was what held my hand as I picked up my red pen for the first time.   Thanks Mendy.

Keep the Original

write what you know.
Then, add mystery,
step into strange.
listen to your friends’ suggestions,
but stick to your truth.
edit everything.
delete nothing.
sleep on it.
write; when you’re inspired,
because it’s time,
because you must.
Revise.
cut
strike out
nail down
extend metaphor
give detail.
read your work.
yes, out loud,
where others hear you.
devour poetry.
read it through,
then aloud.
digest it.
take it in.
then write.
Edit.
Review.
Revise.
show up everyday
ready to be inspired.
carry a small notebook at all times.
write on napkins when you must.
know poetry is ministry.
release yourself from what holds you back,
just show up.
call yourself a writer,
because you are.
shoulder the burden of the pen,
write a hard truth,
the poem you don’t want to write.
meet your muse halfway,
and be on time.
write the story of your people;
good, bad, and ugly.
poetry transforms.
sleep with poetry by the bed.
write fearlessly.
scribble it all down,
you’ll edit it anyway.
Always-
keep the original.

National Poetry Slam

On August 5th I’m flying into Boston where I will get to tour Salem, see the sights, and go to the 2011 National Poetry Slam! I’m very excited. I can’t compete because I won’t be there for finals and let’s face it, I’m chicken! I still haven’t slammed at an open mic, though I do plan to correct this while in Boston.

For 4 days I will be immersed in open mics, workshops, poets, and preliminary competitions. I am on edge with excitement and eager for the inspiration I know I will receive and the writing that will come from it.

I haven’t been feeling very inspired this month.  I’ve been writing though, just not poetry.  I’ve written essays for some other blogs and a sermon which I delivered at UU this past Sunday.  I am considering this fall committing to a 30/30 again.  Writing 30 poems in 30 days.  It’s a challenge and you get a lot of crap, but you also get some real gems from this kind of work.  This fall or winter I will also be challenging myself to one more type of formulaic writing.  In the spring I did 6 weeks of Haiku and this summer I made a vain attempt at 6 weeks doing sonnets.  What should I tackle this winter?  Suggestions?

Caution

Caution.

I slow to a stop at the flashing lights

wondering if God will tell me which direction to take

caught between my past and the unknown

where does this road lead

the caution light flashes and it’s my turn

I choose a direction and drive.